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Toronto court debates lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein’s assistant

Lawsuit claims Barbara Schneeweiss arranged the meetings where the disgraced Hollywood producer sexually assaulted a Toronto actress in 2000.

New York's attorney general filed a lawsuit against Film producer Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Co. on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

AP Photo/John Carucci, File

New York's attorney general filed a lawsuit against Film producer Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Co. on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

A lawyer for Harvey Weinstein’s assistant argued for hours in a courtroom Monday to change and cut parts of a lawsuit which claims she arranged the meetings where the disgraced Hollywood producer sexually assaulted a Toronto actress in 2000.

The actress’s lawyers made their case in 30 minutes.

“Ms. Schneeweiss is no innocent bystander. She loads the gun for Mr. Weinstein,” Doe’s lawyer, Marie Henein, said of assistant Barbara Schneeweiss. “What was pled is that she is a facilitator, she is an accomplice, she is reckless and she is part and parcel of this scheme.”

Schneeweiss’s lawyer Jonathan Rosenstein said the claims against his client are “muddled and unclear,” and require far more detail.

Schneeweiss was Weinstein’s assistant in 2000 when the actress, identified in the case as Jane Doe, alleges she facilitated two sexual assaults — one where Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on Doe, and another where he “tried to stick his tongue down her throat” when they met for what Doe thought was an apology.

Weinstein, through a representative, has denied allegations of non-consensual sex. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Barbara Schneeweiss is named in a lawsuit involving disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, Miramax and Walt Disney Company.

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Barbara Schneeweiss is named in a lawsuit involving disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, Miramax and Walt Disney Company.

Schneeweiss, Weinstein and co-defendents Miramax and Walt Disney Co., have yet to file statements of defence. They won’t have to file until the motion to strike and amend the claims against Schneeweiss is settled.

Rosenstein’s argument Monday in the Superior Court of Justice hinged on details — how related is the claim against Schneeweiss to the alleged sexual assaults? How would Schneeweiss have known about Weinstein’s alleged sexual impropriety?

“Why would (Doe) have to say how she knew?,” Judge Patrick Monahan asked Rosenstein.

To Rosenstein, that information provides “a roadmap” towards a finding of liability. He also argued that a portion of the lawsuit, which referenced Schneeweiss’s longevity of employment and an alleged “established practice” for Weinstein assistants, is irrelevant to her individual case.

Doe’s lawyers Henein and Alex Smith disagreed, pointing to a new lawsuit from New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman filed Sunday in the U.S., which alleges the WeinsteinCompany hired a group of female employees as Weinstein’s “wing women.”

One of the central arguments Monday was around Ontario’s Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan, which said in 2016 that any legal proceeding based on a sexual assault wouldn’t be limited “in any way” by time limits. These cases can include “claims for negligence, for breach of fiduciary or any other duty or for vicarious liability.”

Rosenstein said such claims should include some kind of liability for the alleged assault, re-stating that he’d like Doe and her lawyers to explain their theory of liability against Schneeweiss.

“I say a claim is not in relation to assault where there is no nexus between the assault and the claim, other than the fact the assault caused the damages,” he said.

Henein argued that “this case, this particular claim, is clearly the type of claim that the government of Ontario wanted to allow sexual assault victims to bring.”

“It would be, in my respectful submission, astounding if Ms. Schneeweiss could shield herself from the civil responsibility for her participation in procuring Ms. Doe for Mr. Weinstein,” she said.

Judge Monahan reserved his decision.

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